Reflecting on the 8 Defining Moments of New York Jets' 2013 Season
The New York Jets' 2013 season is finally in the books.
Despite not making the postseason, there were plenty of memorable moments to remember this eventful season by. Several games were won in dramatic fashion as a young team starts to build its legacy behind a coach everyone had already counted out.
There were plenty of lowlights as well, including a three-game skid that prevented the season from being anything more than a pleasant surprise of competitive football. Now, the onus is on the Jets front office to make the right decisions to create more positive moments than negative ones.
Here are the plays and games that defined the 2013 New York Jets.
Geno Smith's First Miracle
Week 1. After an offseason that consisted of nothing but having their name being dragged through mud, the Jets finally had a chance to give themselves something to feel good about with a win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Jets turned in a performance worthy of a win, only to squander their lead in the final minutes on a late field goal (that could have been a game-sealing touchdown had linebacker Demario Davis failed to catch a wide-open Vincent Jackson from behind).
With less than a minute remaining, Geno Smith was able to get the Jets into field-goal range, albeit with the help of a late hit by linebacker Lavonte David. The always-trustworthy Nick Folk was able to knock in what would be the first of many game-winning field goals.
This was more than just an opening day win. For a franchise that has been trying to shake off an unrelenting storm of negativity that had shadowed it for the past nine months, the Jets were able to finally turn the page by getting a win with their rookie quarterback leading the charge.
The Jets proved that while they may not have been the most talented team in the league, Rex Ryan's squad was not going to roll over and die like so many predicted.
Santonio Holmes Comes Alive
In what was his first game of the season (he missed the first two weeks recovering form a hamstring injury), ToneTime appeared to be back in business in his season debut.
After surrendering a 17-6 lead, Holmes made the play of the afternoon by reeling in a 69-yard touchdown pass from Geno Smith to seal the victory. He finished the day with five catches for 154 yards, including the long touchdown.
It appeared as if Holmes was finally back to playing like the Jets expected him to play when they gave him his lopsided contract in 2011, as the Jets had not had as many explosive plays in one game in several years (the team averaged a staggering 20.7 yards per reception in this game).
Unfortunately for the Jets, however, Holmes would never reach these heights (or come anywhere close) again this season, and it is only a matter of time before Holmes is relieved of his contract.
Antonio Allen's Pick-Six
Headed into their Week 7 meeting with the New England Patriots, the Jets were playing strong defensive football.
However, if they were going to move from the "very good" category into the "elite" category, they were going to have to force more turnovers and start creating points on their own. After all, the Jets only had one interception (on Josh Freeman back in Week 1) all season.
The Jets had played a close game though the first half of this pivotal divisional matchup, but the Jets were not able to pull in front and swing momentum until Antonio Allen came up with arguably the best play of the season by any member of the Jets secondary by intercepting Tom Brady and taking back the other way for six.
Inspired by Allen's play to finally get the lead, the Jets went on to win the game and make divisional supremacy a reality.
As great of a play as it was, what was even more impressive was how Allen was able to handle Rob Gronkowski by his lone self for most of the game. Allen had been playing well all season, but it was not until he made this season-changing play did he get the public recognition he deserved.
Geno Makes His Second Comeback
Another week, another blown lead by the Jets—except this time, the Jets were inches away from dropping a game in front of a national audience against a heavy favorite in the Atlanta Falcons (this was back when they still had a season to play for).
Just as he did against the Buccaneers a month prior, Geno Smith drove the Jets down the field with seconds remaining to set up a game-winning field goal. Only difference was, Smith did not need the help of a freak penalty to get the job done.
Smith's final drive was the highlight of what would turn out to be his best performance of the season. Players' reputations are built in prime-time games, and the entire country got a good look at the very best of Geno Smith.
Not only did the Jets show off how effective their young quarterback could be, but it gave them a huge wave of confidence by getting a huge upset over a contending team (at the time) in a hostile environment.
After this win, it was more difficult than ever to associate the Jets with their label as a "circus."
About a month removed from their emphatic win over the Buccaneers, the Jets found themselves on the right end of another controversial call in a game-deciding moment of the game.
The Jets got a second chance at a game-deciding overtime field goal thanks to a "pushing" violation by Patriots lineman Chris Jones. "Pushing" is a new rule for 2013 that makes it illegal for a player to push a teammate into the line on field-goal blocks in the name of safety.
There is no denying that what Jones did was illegal; the controversy arises due to the timing of the call. This was the first time ever that this penalty was called—why wait until such a crucial moment in overtime to enforce a brand-new rule?
Apparently, the Jets alerted officials of the Patriots using this practice, which explains why the officials were all over such a lesser-known violation at such a pivotal moment in the game.
Either way, the Jets found a way to win the game over their fiercest rival, the New England Patriots, for the first time since the 2010 playoffs.
Ed Reed Comes to Town
The owners of the most surprising 5-4 record in the league with the "easy" part of their schedule coming up, the Jets were in a position where they could do no wrong. They were playing with house money, winning games in a season that was supposed to be filled with growing pains and losing.
However, with the playoffs in their crosshairs, Rex Ryan and the Jets began to lose sight of where they were as a team. Rather than continue their unlikely push with their young collection of talent, the Jets viewed themselves as contenders—which led to their signing of Houston Texans castoff Ed Reed.
Reed will stroll into the Hall of Fame as soon as he is eligible, but the 2013 version of Reed hardly resembles the one that struck so much terror into opposing quarterbacks. Having not recorded an interception (or a win) all season, even the struggling Texans had no use for Reed.
Paralyzed by nostalgia, Ryan and the Jets succumbed to their guilty pleasure and brought in Reed—the results were predictable.
Reed was responsible for far more touchdowns than he saved, and his presence kept the rising star in Antonio Allen off the field. The Jets were giving up at least as many big plays as before, except this time, they were not even developing young talent in the process.
It would be silly to blame Reed for the Jets' collapse in the second half of the season, but it is hardly a coincidence that the Jets defense got progressively worse after he was forced into the starting lineup.
The Losing Streak
Following the 5-4 start, there were few teams in a better position than the Jets. Having already surpassed their low expectations, they were actually in the driver's seat in the wide-open AFC playoff picture and in control of their own destiny with their most difficult opponents in their rear-view mirror.
However, rather than roll through the rest of their schedule on their way to the postseason, the Jets played a three-game stretch that was an ugly as any in the Rex Ryan era. They scored just 20 points in three games while yielding 79.
This type of rapid decline goes far beyond a quarterback that has fallen into a rut. The Jets were inept in every way possible, failing to execute routine blitz pickups and defend contested passes. They were giving up a ton of big plays on defense while not being able to answer with simple completions on offense.
With nine games of pro tape on Geno Smith and the Jets defense, opposing coordinators were able to attack the Jets' weaknesses in the secondary and along the offensive line.
The Jets were eventually able to recover by getting a must-needed win at home over the Raiders, but they ultimately couldn't make the playoffs.
Win for Rex
After falling to 6-8, the Jets' season was all but over—but that did not mean they lacked motivation for their final two games. The future of their tremendously popular head coach, Rex Ryan, was at stake, and showing a lack of effort in the final two contests could have spelled the end for Ryan.
The Jets were able to beat the Browns and the Dolphins to finish with the most miraculous 8-8 record in the league. While much was learned about some young players who showed massive improvement (namely Geno Smith and Dee Milliner), what was most notable was how much his players cared about their coach to play well for him.
His players did not just play well for his cause. They stood on the table for him with public comments in the media, spearheaded by Willie Colon—who was with the team for less than a full season before making these comments.
When it was finally announced that Rex would return to the players, the players' reaction says it all (via the team website).